LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Some adults are stepping up in the community to give teenagers an outlet for all that energy, and role models to follow.
He's a big guy with a strong voice. In a gym full of teenagers, that's important.
Coach Nimbo Hammons tells the team huddled around him at center court, "today will be more of a "get at it" day. Next Tuesday will be a 'get at it' day."
The Charlotte Court basketball team is one week from a national championship tournament for 8th graders. On this night, the team has split into two squads and is having a spirited, competitive scrimmage. Coach Hammons tells one group, "Get at 'em. Make 'em look bad. Either their pride will kick in, and they'll start going hard; if they don't, crush 'em."
He has their full attention. "Don't play with 'em because they're not prepared; it doesn't mean you shouldn't be ready."
Coach Robert "Nimbo" Hammons, a former basketball star from Bryan Station High School, played four years of college ball. Now he's giving back in memory of all those who helped him as a youngster. Coach Hammons formed a non-profit organization and started coaching summer ball with 7th and 8th-grade teams. His goal- use basketball to teach young boys discipline, hard work, and success in the class room. To be on Coach Nimbo's teams, school work and grades are a priority.
He tells the team, "I need everybody at 3.0 if possible. If you need help with school, you have to open your mouth. I am talking to a guy right now, and hopefully, he'll be able to help us out with the ACT program, may do something on Saturdays, I'll let you know."
He and his assistants are mentors for boys craving structure. "They need to see positive men. They need to see somebody doing the right things. But not always rich, and wealth. But somebody who goes to work every day, that works hard, but they earn it every day. They need to see those things, and understand that's okay."
Mikaleb Coffey, a member of the 8th-grade team, says, "If he didn't like watch out for our grades, I don't think I'd have good grades. But since he, like, watches out for it, I got good grades now." Tammy Coffey, his mother, says, "It's been life changing for him. I think that if this program hadn't come along, I don't think he'd be in a good way." Tammy Coffey's son, Mikaleb was struggling before he joined the team. Mikaleb says, "I was just feeling like real depressed. I didn't think I was going to be able to get thru it. I was real sad."
Mikaleb had lost a sister to suicide and an older brother to prison. The Charlotte Court team gave him an outlet and a coach with whom he bonded. WKYT's Sam Dick asked Hammons, "How did you connect with him?" Coach Hammons is blunt. "Tell him the truth." "I believe in telling everyone the truth. If he continued that path, it was going to be a path of being taken out of the home."
The boys on the team see and hear what's happening on the streets of Lexington. Mikaleb says "Yes sir. I had a friend I went to middle school with. I played football with him. And he went to jail for shooting at the cops. I mean, it's just everywhere."
That harsh reality did not stop the Charlotte Court team from sweeping the national tournament and bringing home a national championship. Coach Nimbo says, "I'm in it, to give the boys an opportunity to go to college. Since we've been here, we've had over 90% of our kids go to college." And that's a win on anyone's court.